DATA TO DECISIONS

Doug Henschen on Analytics, Big Data & Smart Apps

Tata Consultancy Services Analyst Day: What Stands Out?

TCS says it’s now among the top-four in consulting and business process services in terms of brand recognition. Here are three ways TCS differentiated itself at its annual analyst day.

Descriptions of consulting services, business process solutions and outsourcing options are often hard to differentiate from one provider to the next. Here are three things stood out to me at this week’s Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) Analyst Day 2015: plentiful customer case examples, positioning around taking some of the artisanal (meaning, bespoke and costly) quality out of consulting, and the IT-focused nature of the IGNIO neural automation technology.

The theme at the TCS event was “Default is Digital,” meaning that most every enterprise now aspires to capitalize on five familiar digital trends: mobility and pervasive computing, social media, big data and analytics, cloud and robotics (a.k.a. automation). TCS surpassed $15 billion in revenue last year, and it presented third-party research here that shows that the company is now in the top tier of consulting and systems integration firms (after IBM, HP and Accenture) as measured by brand recognition. TCS has boosted that recognition in part through worldwide sponsorship of endurance running events including the New York City Marathon.

@TCS_NA, #tcsarday, #BPO, #bigdata

These are among the common themes TCS identified as moving us toward “the digital enterprise.”

TCS says it’s helping its clients with two big imperatives. First, there’s industrializing software and processes so they just work in cost-effective, automated and repeatable ways. Second, and more importantly, it’s helping companies to reimagine the art of the possible by exploiting game-changing digital capabilities such as pervasive computing and big data and analytics.

We heard at length about TCS consulting, business process solutions and outsourcing services, but it’s hard to tease out clear nuances among similar-sounding services across the many consulting and systems integration firms. As I explain in the video below, I was most impressed by the real-world customer examples presented, including one presented by an “industrial services firm” executive who was there in person. Unfortunately we were asked not to share the name of his firm, but it’s an industry giant that’s strongly associated with Internet of Things innovation.

EVENT REPORT: INSIDE TCS ANALYST DAY 2015 from Constellation Research on Vimeo.

MyPOV on TCS Analyst Day

To get beyond the sound-alike buzzwords and categories of service offered by consulting and business process solutions and outsourcing firms, it’s crucial to explore customer case examples that fit the areas and kinds of challenges you’re trying to address. All the better if the firm can name the names of the firms and share executive references. TCS has lots of slick customer testimonial videos, but it’s only in conversation and in in-depth case studies that you get to the unvarnished truth and detail of an engagement.

Perhaps the most differentiating point I heard at TCS Analyst Day came from Krishnan Ramanujam, VP & Global Head, Consulting and Enterprise Solutions, who said that TCS is taking a “disruptive” approach by taking some of the “artisanal quality” out of consulting engagements. That means it’s looking to apply repeatable approaches and solutions in non-differentiating areas while applying unique expertise and customer-specific solutions at the core of the engagement.

Citing one example, Rumanujam said TCS was able to complete an engagement in less than five months at a cost of $3 million for one client where “high profile rivals” had bid $30 million and $16 million, respectively, and were looking for engagements of 18 to 24 months. One lynchpin of this strategy, says Rumanujam, is working with existing clients, so TCS has a leg up on understanding the firm’s operations and challenges and can avoid lengthy fact-finding interviews and exploratory analyses.

One other stand-out presentation at TCS Analyst Day detailed Ignio, which is this firm’s entry into the cognitive computing and artificial intelligence arena. Launched in June, Ignio is about “igniting change,” and the idea is to replace robotic automation with what it calls neural automation. Instead of having to explicitly program rules and automation – an approach that doesn’t scale and doesn’t last, due to rapid change within organizations – TCS says it has equipped Ignio with human-brain-like contextual awareness, composable skills and pattern-recognition capabilities. When you plug it into your data sources and systems, it autonomously learns about the technical functioning of an enterprise and automatically and proactively spot poor system performance and looming problems without human guidance.

What stood out about Ignio is that it’s squarely focused in the IT domain rather than tackling business process challenges. In that sense Ignio seems less ambitious than, say, IBM Watson or other cognitive computing initiatives. It’s aimed at the keep-the-lights-on challenges that consume the bulk of IT’s time, and that’s a good place to target next-gen automation capabilities. It also presents a technology solution to a technical audience first rather than expecting business people to trust and pioneer a new capability. It’s a conservative approach that just may be the most realistic way to wade into the cognitive arena.

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